Second-Winningest Coach In Franchise History Returns To Charlotte Bench
June 24, 2022 – Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today the team has named Steve Clifford head coach. Clifford, who previously served the team’s head coach from 2013-2018, returns to Charlotte, where his 196 wins ranks second in franchise history, sitting just 11 behind Allan Bristow.
“We are pleased to welcome Steve back to our franchise,” said Kupchak. “We believe that his previous experience and coaching philosophy make him the best coach for our team. Steve has a proven track record of improving defenses and is detail oriented. He has a history of maximizing players’ talent and working with them to develop and expand their skill sets. Steve is committed to playing with the same offensive pace that our fans are accustomed to seeing the last few years. We are confident that he will be able to help our young players continue to grow as we look to take the next step as a team.”
Clifford has more than 20 years of NBA coaching experience and more than 35 years overall, including eight seasons as a head coach with the Hornets (2013-2018) and Orlando Magic (2018-2021). He spent the 2021-22 season as a consultant for the Brooklyn Nets and Head Coach Steve Nash. Clifford has a career record of 292-345 as a head coach, including a 196-214 mark in his previous five seasons in Charlotte. His teams have made the playoffs in four of his eight seasons and finished in the top 10 in both points allowed and defensive rating on five occasions.
“I’m happy to be returning to Charlotte, and I want to thank Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson for this opportunity,” said Clifford. “This is an exciting young team with a lot of talented pieces. Charlotte is a great city and I know first-hand the passion that Hornets fans have for this franchise. I can’t wait to get back to town and start working with our players.”
In Clifford’s first season in Charlotte in 2013-14, the team went 43-39, a 22-win improvement over the previous season, and finished fourth in points allowed and fifth in defensive rating after ranking 29th and 30th, respectively, one season earlier. In 2015-16, he led the Hornets to a 48-34 record and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, posting the franchise’s best record since 1999-2000.
Clifford also helped turn around the Hornets’ offense during his first run in Charlotte. After ranking in the NBA’s bottom 10 in both points per game and offensive rating in his first two seasons, the team improved to ninth in offensive rating and 11th in points per game in 2015-16. That season the Hornets were one of only four teams to finish in the top 12 in points per game, offensive rating, points per game allowed and defensive rating. The Hornets remained in the top half of the league in both offensive categories for each of Clifford’s final two seasons, increasing their scoring average by 14.0 points per game and their offensive rating by 9.3 from 2014-15 to 2017-18.
In his first season in Orlando in 2018-19, the Magic posted a 42-40 record, a 17-win improvement over the previous season, and ranked fifth in points allowed and eighth in defensive rating after ranking 21st and 18th, respectively, in 2017-18.
Clifford’s teams are known for not committing turnovers and defensive rebounding. In eight seasons as a head coach, his teams have never finished outside the top five in the league in fewest turnovers committed, and in seven of his eight campaigns his team finished in the top two in offensive rebounds allowed and the top five in defensive rebound percentage.
Prior to becoming an NBA head coach, Clifford spent 13 seasons as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks (2000-2003), Houston Rockets (2003-2007), Orlando Magic (2007-2012) and Los Angeles Lakers (2012-13). From 2003-2013, his teams made the playoffs in nine of 10 seasons, including five straight playoff appearances, three straight Southeast Division titles and a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals during his tenure with the Magic alongside Stan Van Gundy. Additionally, Clifford spent 15 years coaching at the collegiate level before joining the New York Knicks.
Hive Society Memberships for the 2022-23 season are on sale now, with limited availability in the lower level. Hive Society Memberships include all 43 regular-season and preseason games and feature some of the best benefits in professional sports. Pick 23 Plans are also available in the upper level. Pick 23 Plans include the first and last regular-season home games and 21 games of the purchaser’s choice, along with playoff priority and interest-free payment plans. For more information, call 704.HORNETS or visit hornets.com/tickets.